- Notable logo / brand moves in 2016. Some feel trivial: Netflix goes for a folded look, Instagram absorbed some net art visuals, Mastercard went flat, Kodak went retro. Others are aesthetic harbingers of deep societal change like a flag to represent a nation composed of refugees or the "Make America Great Again" hat. Visual design both reflects and attempts to shape the cultural era it lives in. For 2017 we should watch carefully for attempts to harness the power of design for ill; for anyone that would gussy up hateful ideas in a gloss of perfectly kerned letters and fresh logos. Though it feels more vital and immediate now, in any time we owe it to each other seize upon opportunities that leverage design to tell the best stories about our human potential for creation, growth, and unity.
- A lovely little swords-into-plowshares story: Superflex Inc is working to commercialize its soft exoskeleton technology that was originally developed with military funding, but instead of equipping soldiers with super-human strength, their latest products will help augment the ailing bodies of the elderly. Superflex says their tech will be so low profile that people can wear it underneath their clothes, which would make it some of the most minimal assistive technology ever.
Up in the air:
- 7-Eleven, more known for their convenient cornucopia of endlessly rotating hot dogs, cigarettes, snack foods and sodas than their high technology ambitions has completed a number of successful aerial deliveries by partnering with the drone company Flirtey. Sometimes by the time the future we've been promised finally arrives, it feels strangely mundane.
- Bridgewater Associates is the world's largest hedge fund organization and they're trying to replace much of their management with automated decision making via software. The firm is already known for a workplace atmosphere of intense scrutiny and pressure, so maybe workers there are a little more willing to welcome robot overlords.
- When it comes to hands-on, blue collar work in the U.S. the mental images of the rugged coal miners of Appalachia or the oil field workers of Texas are invoked more often than most. But just as manufacturing has seen the power and influence of human labor decline, new technologies coming online are going to do the same for the oil industry, with some analysts predicting a 40% reduction in jobs over the next few years. While these jobs may be offset somewhat by new opportunities in software engineering, sensor R&D and other automation inputs, there's no guarantee that those roles will be filled by workers in the same region which could serve to increase the gap between the coastal haves and the central U.S. have nots.
Just a Game:
- Food as a visual proxy for vitality and power has been a standard in videogames from the very beginning, from Mario popping mushrooms to turkey legs in Castlevania and combat rations in Metal Gear Solid, digital foods assist in telling a story about the aesthetic and experiential world of the game. Eater has an article on the unprecedented realism of food in the latest Final Fantasy release, and how gathering ingredients and "cooking" are intrinsic to the flavor of the game.
- The wild amount of precision engineering and design research that goes into building a-more-perfect mouse for elite videogamers.